Springtime means warmer temperatures, blooming flowers and time for outdoor fun.  It also signals the arrival of tree sap which left untouched can damage your vehicle’s paint job and even lead to rust.

The longer tree sap stays on your car or truck, the harder it can be to remove.  “Get the sap off as soon as possible, because it will eventually eat through the paint, especially as the days warm up,” says John Ibbotson, chief mechanic at Consumer Reports Magazine’s  Auto Test Center. “Heat accelerates how the sap sticks to the paint.”

Sap can damage your car because of how it bonds with the vehicle’s surface. Industry experts say that the sap drops shrink over time, and as they shrink, they create stress on your car’s finish because of that strong bond with the paint.  That tension can end up cracking a car’s finish.  Bird droppings can also cling to the finish and damage the paint.

Don’t let tree sap or bird droppings linger for days. You can prevent damage by safely removing those and other elements from your car’s finish as soon as possible.

First, wash your car.  Next, dab some rubbing alcohol on a cloth as your first line of attack. That may be all you need to get the job done.

If the rubbing alcohol isn’t working, industry leaders recommend trying a specialized tree-sap or bug-and-tar removal product, available at auto parts and hardware stores. Make sure to test any cleaner on a small spot first to make sure it isn’t damaging the clearcoat and possibly the paint underneath.  Proceed to a larger work area if there is no discoloration of the paint or streaking.   Also remember, a little bit goes a long way, so don’t over-apply the product.

Once the sap has been removed, clean the area with soap and water and then apply a coat of wax to protect those areas.

Here’s something to think about to avoid the problem in the first place.  If you can, don’t park your car near sap-producing trees.

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